The Rules of Writing

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I was talking with some writer friends recently and after the usual topics of cake, booze and sex (hey, we ARE writers after all…) we started on the old chestnut, what are the rules of writing. More importantly, do we need to follow them?

Do I need to use third person for a crime novel? Should each scene I write involve some sort of conflict for my main character? Does setting matter? Is it OK to wear a plunging neckline to the book launch? I don’t necessarily have the answers to all of these – apart from the last one; to that I say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, Baby – but I do have some handy rules of my own which I recommend you put into practice forthwith.

THE NETTIE THOMSON 5 RULES OF WRITING

Rule The First:

Put your bum in your seat, switch on your laptop or open your notebook and WRITE. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care how good it is, just get it down.

Rule The Second:

Put it away for a while – at least two weeks, take it out and read it. Go have a stiff drink or strong coffee to get over how bad you think it is and then sit back down and make it better. Fix those typos, mistakes in chronological order, wrong character names, dead description, co-incidences and inconsistencies. Then put it away for another week or two.

Rule The Third.

Work on something else.

Repeat Rules The Second and Third until your novel is as good as you think you can make it.

Rule The Fourth

Let someone else read your book – or at least the first three chapters and ask them for a critique. I have a post coming up on Women Writers, Women’s Books about critiquing. Read through what your critiquer says and decide if you agree with their suggestions. Make the changes you think you should and repeat Rules the Second and Third one more time.

Rule the Fifth

It’s time to send your baby out into the world with its lunchbox packed and its trousers nicely creased.Β And what happens then is a whole new blog post.

Of course, I follow these rules religiously myself. What’s that? Am I crossing my fingers behind my back? Why, the very idea….
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34 Comments

  1. Marisa Birns
    Sep 5, 2011

    Oh, these are easy enough rules to follow. *peers sternly at your fingers* *looks around for the booze and cake*

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      You can look, but you’ll find nout! I ate and drank it all. Hic!

  2. Marisa Birns
    Sep 5, 2011

    Oh, these are easy enough rules to follow. *peers sternly at your fingers* *looks around for the booze and cake*

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      You can look, but you’ll find nout! I ate and drank it all. Hic!

  3. Derek Flynn
    Sep 5, 2011

    Brilliant, Nettie. Not only are your rules dead-on, but the post is hilarious. Now if only we could all follow them…

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      I know. It’s a case of “Do as I say” not “do as I do”!

  4. Derek Flynn
    Sep 5, 2011

    Brilliant, Nettie. Not only are your rules dead-on, but the post is hilarious. Now if only we could all follow them…

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      I know. It’s a case of “Do as I say” not “do as I do”!

  5. Excellent advice, Nettie, and I stick religiously to these rules. The only trouble is I’m an atheist and the only one I’ll really go with is, number one. Sit down, type, type type until your fignertips are blunt. Then type some more.

    Every time I finish a piece, I promise myself I’ll put it away and forget about it for a week or three, but I’m usually back at it within 48 hours. Fortunately, I have an excellent editor (Maureen Vincent-Northam) who screams at me when she has to pick up the shrapnel.

  6. Excellent advice, Nettie, and I stick religiously to these rules. The only trouble is I’m an atheist and the only one I’ll really go with is, number one. Sit down, type, type type until your fignertips are blunt. Then type some more.

    Every time I finish a piece, I promise myself I’ll put it away and forget about it for a week or three, but I’m usually back at it within 48 hours. Fortunately, I have an excellent editor (Maureen Vincent-Northam) who screams at me when she has to pick up the shrapnel.

  7. Rachel
    Sep 5, 2011

    I didn’t need to read that. It’s exactly what I do. Always. It’s easy. That’s why I have completed so many books.
    *snorts tea down nose*

    You forgot, ‘If you get a good idea, whenever and wherever it is, you MUST get it down, even if it’s with eyeliner on toilet paper…’

    πŸ™‚

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      Me too. Written hundreds, honestlyI have. And your suggestion will be included in a future update to the Rules. I’ll credit you with it, obviously *crosses fingers behind her back. Again.*

  8. Rachel
    Sep 5, 2011

    I didn’t need to read that. It’s exactly what I do. Always. It’s easy. That’s why I have completed so many books.
    *snorts tea down nose*

    You forgot, ‘If you get a good idea, whenever and wherever it is, you MUST get it down, even if it’s with eyeliner on toilet paper…’

    πŸ™‚

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      Me too. Written hundreds, honestlyI have. And your suggestion will be included in a future update to the Rules. I’ll credit you with it, obviously *crosses fingers behind her back. Again.*

  9. clarekirkpatrick
    Sep 5, 2011

    Woohoo! Love them πŸ™‚

  10. clarekirkpatrick
    Sep 5, 2011

    Woohoo! Love them πŸ™‚

  11. Imogen
    Sep 5, 2011

    This is exactly what I needed to read today! I am finally starting to get back into writing creatively (rather than just for work) and have been struggling with where to start. This has helped. Not quite so daunted now πŸ™‚ So thank you!

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      Thank you so much – it’s only my fun way of saying what I think works πŸ™‚

  12. Imogen
    Sep 5, 2011

    This is exactly what I needed to read today! I am finally starting to get back into writing creatively (rather than just for work) and have been struggling with where to start. This has helped. Not quite so daunted now πŸ™‚ So thank you!

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 5, 2011

      Thank you so much – it’s only my fun way of saying what I think works πŸ™‚

  13. dandeliongirl01
    Sep 6, 2011

    I do love these rules and the image of my work going off with it’s lunch box! I shall immediately follow them to the letter. Once I’ve written this obviously…

  14. dandeliongirl01
    Sep 6, 2011

    I do love these rules and the image of my work going off with it’s lunch box! I shall immediately follow them to the letter. Once I’ve written this obviously…

  15. Martha
    Sep 12, 2011

    I like Rule The Second πŸ™‚

  16. Martha
    Sep 12, 2011

    I like Rule The Second πŸ™‚

  17. Martha
    Sep 12, 2011

    ps Nettie has your blog always looked like this or have you redesigned it? It’s gorgeous — love the header photo and the layout… very restful, lovely.

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 13, 2011

      Hi Martha and thank you for your lovely comments. I have redesigned the blog recently, trying to make it less cluttered, and I am so pleased you like it. The photo is one of my own. I took it on holiday this year. We stayed in a lodge overlooking this very lake.
      Nx

  18. Martha
    Sep 12, 2011

    ps Nettie has your blog always looked like this or have you redesigned it? It’s gorgeous — love the header photo and the layout… very restful, lovely.

    • nettiewriter
      Sep 13, 2011

      Hi Martha and thank you for your lovely comments. I have redesigned the blog recently, trying to make it less cluttered, and I am so pleased you like it. The photo is one of my own. I took it on holiday this year. We stayed in a lodge overlooking this very lake.
      Nx

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